Chock, Bates hold small lead after U.S. Championships short dance

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World silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates hold a slim lead over Olympic teammates Maia and Alex Shibutani after the U.S. Championships short dance in St. Paul, Minn., on Friday.

Chock and Bates, the defending U.S. champions, totaled 75.14 points, bettering their mark from the 2015 Nationals by 1.19 points.

“We felt connected to each other and connected to our music,” Chock said in a press conference after they skated to their third different short dance this season.

The Shibutani siblings, the three-time U.S. silver medalists without a national title, also improved from last year to post 74.67 points.

In 2015, the Shibutanis trailed by .11 going into the free dance and ended up 3.75 points behind Chock and Bates.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are in third, 4.04 behind Chock and Bates (full results here).

The U.S. champions crowned after Saturday’s free dance (live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra) will earn an automatic berth into the World Championships in Boston in two months. A U.S. Figure Skating committee will choose two couples to join them, likely the silver and bronze medalists.

Since 1996, five couples have combined to win all of the U.S. ice dance titles — Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow from 1996 though 1998, Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev from 1999 through 2003, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto from 2004 through 2008, Meryl Davis and Charlie White from 2009 through 2014 and Chock and Bates last year.

Davis and White have not competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions in Sochi but have not retired. They did Icenetwork.com commentary during the short dance.

MORE: Surprise leaders after pairs, women’s short programs

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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